Why UKIP would bring back Grammar Schools

Nathan Gill says that choice is needed in our education system.

Perhaps the most distinctive devolved policy that UKIP are pushing ahead of the Welsh Assembly Elections is the commitment to bring back Grammar Schools to Wales.

The Assembly election 2016

With just days before Wales heads to the polls we’ve asked each of the six main parties to outline why they deserve your vote.

We’ll be running these pieces over the next week. To see the series as a whole please click here.

Selective education has been demonised over the last couple of decades by politicians across all other parties, and has become the political taboo of education policy. However UKIP strongly believes that without choice in education, the one-size-fits-all education strategy pushed by all other parties will continue to fail our children and compress standards in schools.
UKIP believes that not all children are the same, and equally develop at different rates throughout their education career. This is clear as almost every school in the country currently places pupils into sets or streams based upon their progress. Education policy should not only recognise these differences, but celebrate them, by giving pupils the chance to mould their studies to fit the skills and ambitions unique to them.
Not only would UKIP want to see the reintroduction of Grammar Schools, with the duty of adopting a minimum intake requirement of at least 10% of pupils from low income backgrounds, but also wants to see University Technical Colleges offer a wide range of professional and vocational courses backed by industry, helping to train the workforce of the future.
UTCs would provide a strong platform of excellent academic education but also enable world leading technical specialisms to be developed, with students able to benefit from the latest research, access to industry experts and specialist facilities with real life employer projects to develop technical skills fit for entering the workplace, spanning a range of industries and supported by successful businesses and big employers in Wales.
Pupils would then be able to combine both academic and practical education depending on their abilities and career aspirations.
Critics of Grammar Schools have long argued that they are too decisive in disadvantaging some students at the expense of others through an early selection process. UKIP recognises that Grammar Schools are not only backed by a majority of parents, but are a great boon to social mobility for students wanting to pursue an academic route currently dominated by those in private education, making it harder for pupils at state schools, and especially from poorer backgrounds, to attend the country’s leading universities. It is wrong that these great seats of learning have been abolished to sate the thirst for extreme political correctness.
In order to drive up academic standards, UKIP believes that by providing a rigorous learning environment for those students that wish to focus on scholarly pursuits is as valuable as ensuring that there are excellent centres of learning for students who do not want to base their development entirely on a purely academic basis.
Meanwhile UKIP believes that practical and vocational training must not be sacrificed at the altar of targets for university intake, which leave many graduates with large loans and limited career prospects in the real world. There should be no stigma or shame for those who determine they would rather pursue a more practical education, which would be backed up by high standards of academic development, providing them with key skills and vital industry links to help them enter professions in manufacturing, technology, design, business, hospitality and agriculture and a range of other fields.
For too long the focus has been on getting young people into further education, arguably to help massage youth unemployment figures for those ‘not in education, employment or training’ while importing skilled workers from abroad when employers complain that many domestic students are not workplace-ready.
UKIP recognises that flexibility is vital, and opportunities must not be stifled after a prescribed cut-off date which risks becoming definitive in a child’s educational development.
In order to make the system fairer UKIP would allow Grammar School entrance exams to be taken at ages 12, 13 and 16, recognising that not all children develop at the same rate. We would also like to see all pupils given the opportunity to convert to or combine education in academic as well as professional and vocational areas, enabling students to embrace a bespoke study pathway that will better engage and inspire pupils in the classroom while leaving them with the necessary skills to find employment or continue their studies.
The current system sees all pupils funnelled through a very narrow causeway that fails to identify the vast differences between possible learning streams. The result is an education system where everyone must conform to one single route, and is assessed by one set of standards, creating a binary determination of either success or failure, which can really harm pupil development. Instead we believe in a more holistic approach that recognises the importance of preparing the next generation to be the workforce of the future and identifying the worth in every single child.
UKIP believes it’s about time we broke the taboo of grammar schools, and provide the opportunity for children from any walk of life to go to top universities, but also equally believes that the time has come to shatter the glass ceiling for pupils who don’t get the top grades and scrap the stigma for those who are gifted in a whole range of other areas.
UKIP’s policy on selective education places the power of selection where it belongs: into the hands of tomorrow’s workers, where they get to select on an ongoing basis how to build and shape their own futures.

Nathan Gill is the Leader of UKIP in Wales.

17 thoughts on “Why UKIP would bring back Grammar Schools

  1. Our education system needs drastic improvement. Teachers in England are voting to go and strike and standards in both countries are falling. But rather than knee jerk reactions, bring back grammar schools, it’s all the fault of the WAG, it’s all the fault of the Welsh language, it’s all the fault of Westminster. The Abolish Wales party are going to scream it’s all the fault of the Assembly, abolish the assembly. The anti-Welsh language mob are similarly going to scream it’s all the fault of the Welsh language, ban the Welsh language. This time can we have a proper view and assessment and consensus on the way forward and not just apply another band aid and hope that will resolve all our problems for the benefit of all the people of Wales and not just the vocal minority of incomers who like to blame Wales and the Welsh for all the worlds problems

  2. Nathan Gill keeps going on about a Comprehensive school being a “one size fits all” which doesn’t work. He should think of these schools more like District General Hospitals where everyone enters through the same door marked Reception but, once diagnosed, is then directed to the appropriate Specialist. Every Comprehensive school will have statutory provision for children with Special Educational Needs and will also offer vocational training post 14. All will have setting in some subjects and many will band pupils by ability. All will cater for a full range of abilities [U – A*] at GCSE and many at A level as well.

    Are we really to see Welsh towns with a Grammar School, Secondary Modern/UTC and possibly a Comprehensive as well, maybe with separate provision for English and Welsh – 6/8 schools all vying for the same constituency of 11-16/18 year olds?! This is yet another English policy – and no doubt a vote-winner there – brought in by UKIP to solve a non-existent problem in Wales. Well has it been said that UKIP is a Trojan Horse for English Nationalists and failed Westminster politicians who mustn’t be let anywhere near Welsh schools.

  3. I think the pro grammar school argument needs to be more honest, basically – let’s have some schools that keep the riff-raff out. Tart it up as much as you want that’s the attraction for many of it’s advocates.

  4. Surely grammar schools offer selective education not choice, unless choice by those deciding who gets into grammar schools is what counts?

  5. Good to see UKIP’s EnglandandWales project is getting some meat on the bone.

  6. “UKIP recognizes that grammar schools are backed by a majority of parents..” Eh? Grammar schools were abolished because they were politically poison – unpopular with the majority of parents whose kids could not get in. Every poll I have seen since shows the majority of parents don’t want them. The fact that UKIP “recognizes” something that ain’t so shows they are living in a little world of their own.

  7. You would be surprised if you actually analysed what drives in-school policy or, more correctly, you may be surprised at the direction that the many and varied edicts of the WAG drive school’s policy.

    For some years now the “Level2 inclusive” (5 GCSEs gained at A*-C and including English/Welsh L1 and Maths) has been the main measure by which school attainment is assessed. The result was naturally that a lot of effort (some would say disproportionate effort) was put into teaching pupils on the D-C borderline. This has increased lately and a new tactic has been used; early entry.

    Early entry means that pupils who get a “C” or better in November exams are “in the bank” as far as the school’s attainment measures are concerned. If they get a C in Maths and D in English then Maths lessons are swapped for English lessons and the pupil re-entered later.

    In England this technique is old hat and Michael Gove stamped it out by declaring that only the result of the first entry for GCSE would count towards league tables. GCSE Level2 inclusive figures fell in England as a result. In Wales we remain happy to make it look like we are making great strides when in reality we are just “gaming” the system.

    Take this new measure “Percentage of pupils gaining 5 GCSEs at A*-A”. You can see the objective, PISA found two weaknesses in Wales; a high proportion of pupils performing at the bottom end of the scale and a very small proportion of pupils performing at the high end of the scale. In other words, level 2 inclusive was inviting a level of mediocrity…a “C” is good enough for the school and therefore the pupil.

    Hence the “5 A*-A”. What has been the result? Well the most obvious is a curious inversion where schools with an overall low performance in GCSE (mostly schools with a high percentage of free school meals pupils) suddenly outperform Cardiff High School. How does this happen? Well, GCSE is a strictly controlled examination for the most part but some other “equivalent” examinations have a high percentage of course work that is closely guided by the school and assessed by the school. With control of the results left to the school rather than external examiners these examinations have a very high pass rate and a high A*-A pass rate. Other unintended consequences are the switch from say Welsh L1, where most English home language pupils struggle to get a “C” to Welsh second language where many pupil who have been educated in the Fro Cymraeg will get an A*-A.

    What I see is the Department of Education fire-fighting to try and raise attainment but with the conflicting political imperative that the Minister and government “look good”. We are just encouraging deviousness and dishonesty with ever more ingenious ruses to meet attainment targets and ever more complicated measures to counteract those ruses.

    In reality what we lack in Wales is diversity of approach. The socialist model of rigid top down control means that everything succeeds or everything fails. The WG is right to maintain some control and the Tory/English recent lurch towards dropping all control of schools is a disaster waiting to happen. The middle way, where we provide “horses for courses”…parental choice up to a point and a degree of diversity in our school system would be welcome.

  8. in the old days those who failed their 11+ had their spirits crushed early on and quickly realised they shouldn’t embarrass themselves drafting inarticulate weakly reasoned policies or harbour unrealistic dreams of leading their betters……so it wasn’t all bad.

    There are many matters that could be improved in Wales but one of the things we should be proud of is that our society is relatively homogenous compared to our neighbours over the border. Our comprehensive education system, with all it’s flaws, helps greatly with this.

    Amusingly in the grammar schools of SE England, with their competitive/selective entrance requirements, it is frequently the children of hardworking ambitious immigrant parents who win a disproportionate number of the places. Square that circle UKIP.

    This policy is tilting at windmills ?

  9. Finally a sensible UKIP policy! It might even make me think of voting for the former Amman Valley Grammar boy.
    Enshrined in the 1944 Education Act was the concept of parental choice of school for their child. Passing the old 11+ only meant that a broader range of choices was open to them, but when comprehensivisation was completed here in the late 80s that choice was entirely removed in Wales.
    Why not give a choice between Grammars and Comprehensives, between Welsh- and English-medium, between single sex and coeducational, between Church and non-denominational? Why insist on a one-size-fits-all model, which denies all choice?
    Of course, if Comprehensives really worked as the 1960s gurus claimed they would, then all abilities and aptitudes would be catered for within those educational Nirvanas. Except that they’re not, are they? The lowest common denominator now rules: rubbish education for all Welsh children, rather than the very best for all.

  10. On a recent TV programme, Nathan Gill stated that the party had to decide what it was for. From this policy, we can see that it is a recreation of the social elitism that is a characteristic of English society with grammar schools the means of advancing up the class ladder. He talks of choice but there is no choice if you don’t get selected for the grammar school. This is a headline policy that lacks the educational research to support it.

  11. @ Real choice now
    “Why not give a choice between Grammars and Comprehensives, between Welsh- and English-medium, between single sex and coeducational, between Church and non-denominational? Why insist on a one-size-fits-all model,…”
    Why be so miserly. more choice more choice
    Schools that play rugby, schools that play football; Schools for the children with left wing parents, schools for children with right parents. Schools for Librans, schools for Aquarians, schools for Leos.

  12. A well thought through item and a very articulately expressed policy. Perfect for the South East of England, but a complete vote loser here in Wales – well at least to anyone who takes the time to think about it at all.

    Having said that I don’t think UKIP need to have any policies at all – people are voting for what they want to think UKIP stands for and will close their eyes and ears and pay no attention to any actual policies, whatever they may be. UKIP should just stand on their core values and messages – i.e. we hate foreigners and then play up the noises about their all taking our country over, taking our jobs etc etc. Nothing more required to win votes it seems, although they can get away with throwing in making British Great again, even though that probably draws, at best, a very neutral response here in Wales.

    Will UKIP become the Welsh equivalent of the Ulster Unionists one day? Quite a scary prospect.

  13. Not sure if UKIP Wales has fully grasped the enormity of the task that will face any Welsh Government to reverse Welsh education decline if Wales ends up on the morning of 6th May without Labour or Labour-Plaid coalition possibility – Unlikely but lets hope for the sake of our children and their future that miracles can happen!

    Only a day left before the election and in all the weeks and months of endless ‘high profile’ debates, no one touched upon the principal reasons for the Welsh education decline (Media silence on par with the best that North Korea can offer)!

    More thoughts and view on this subject on – http://www.glasnost.org.uk/2016/03/welsh-education-children-betrayed-by-the-welsh-labour-government/

  14. Perceptive Aled but the same might be said for many parties. I recently took one of those little quizzes that help you to decide which political party in Wales is most in line with your own views on policy. To my dismay I found that I, a lifelong Labour voter, should be voting LibDem!

  15. Students of political history will see this sudden high profile policy as textbook trojan horse work. There are not enough xenophobes in 21st century Britain to put UKIP in charge – possibly even a lower proportion in Wales as we sympathise with the feeling of being treated different in our own land. To widen their appeal they need to wind back on their extreme positions and ‘big up’ the more palatable ones. That way ‘reasonable’ people are tempted to lend them their vote even if it is just their second vote. Our list system is then the back door route into the Assembly left wide open to them. Continually targeting the number of political positions a disaffected electorate doesn’t give a toss about (MEP, AMs, Councillors) slowly gives a strangle hold. Then one morning we wake up to find the swivel eyed loons have their hands on all the levers of power. We all know that what politicians of all hues say to get elected and what they do once in power are often very different. Be concerned.

  16. “The first function of a political leader is advocacy. It is he who must make articulate the wants, the frustrations and the aspirations of the masses” Aneurin Bevan – as quoted on a plaque on the old Town Hall in Tredegar.

    How many of our politicians think like that and how many actually think of their ideas first and then seek to sell them to the public, in the hope that they might win over their votes. The political newcomers these days seem to be particularly good at articulating the frustrations of the masses, but no-one seems to be truly projecting anything that actually reflects the latent wants and aspirations.

  17. Grammar schools were abolished in Wales by the 1980s, although they still exist in England (our education system deviated from England in the 1980s). England never abolished grammar schools, we did. To build on the existing structure in England will be difficult but a lot easier than establishing a system that has been extinct for nearly 40 years. To re-established grammar schools after nearly 40 years would be a mistake for us (as much as abolishing grammar schools in the first place). They belong to a different time and place. Our education system suffered from, probably well-meaning, socialism and knee-jerk reactions. To solve the issue of education in Wales we need a thought out plan tailored for the needs of Wales, not another knee jerk reaction of lets try this or a Westminster one-size fits all solution

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